University of Manchester swaps clapping for ‘Jazz Hands’

In 2015, The New York Times declared snapping was the new clapping, opting for employees to click their fingers in place of clapping in the workplace.

The University of Manchester’s student union has gone one step further, opting to remove clapping from union events in place of the British Sign Language’s (BSL) equivalent: ‘silent jazz hands’.

The Union has received backlash from some students, as well as notable journalists such as Piers Morgan and Jeremy Vine, who both posted on Twitter declaring their distaste for the decision.

Vine’s post included an image of WW1 soldiers in the trenches, suggesting that they had managed to ‘ignore the difficulties caused by sudden noises 100 years ago’.

Yet, the American author, Christina Sommers has defended the decision in a Twitter post by saying that she encourages jazz hands at her talks, as ‘clapping can feel unsafe’.

Since 2015, the National Union of Students (NUS) has been encouraging students to use the British Sign Language equivalent of clapping, as clapping can have effects on students who suffer from anxiety, autism and those with hearing problems.

The gesture where students wave their hands in the air has been viewed to be a more inclusive gesture than clapping, whooping and cheering which can be ‘discouraging’ to students wishing to attend union events.

Sara Khan, the union’s liberation and access officer, proposed the motion, saying that the use of the silent gesture encourages an ‘environment of respect’.

‘I think a lot of the time, even in Parliamentary debates, I’ve seen that clapping, whooping, talking over each other, loud noises, encourages an atmosphere that is not as respectful as it could be,’ she continued.

An NUS spokesperson said that the hand gesture is ‘designed to support those with disabilities and/or sensory conditions to participate in events’.

They continued: ‘Students’ unions strive to make their events welcoming to all of their students; by acknowledging their experiences and responding to their needs.

‘We should all aspire to improve our public spaces so that all members of society feel comfortable and able to contribute fully.’

Kent Union President Aaron Thompson: I think we should be reactive to all student needs

InQuire asked Kent Union President Aaron Thompson what he thought of the policy and whether he would consider removing clapping from union events.

He said: ‘I’m always open to disability inclusivity and initiatives to help promote that sort of work. I’m not necessarily surprised by this phenomenon because I have seen it in NUS already.

‘I’ve been to conferences and I’ve seen it work. I always believe you should do, what your SU should do.

‘If there is a demand within a student body by all means they should be doing it. Equally if our students are demanding the same we would try and do that too.

‘I think we should be reactive to all student needs.’